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United States Supreme Court

21 U.S. 391

The Sarah Hazard

APPEAL from the District Court of Louisiana. This was a libel of information in the Court below, against 422 casks of wine, imported in the brig Sarah, and afterwards seized at New-Orleans, alleging a forfeiture to the United States by a false entry in the office of the collector of the port of New-York, made for the benefit of drawback, on re-exportation, and stating, that the seizure was made on waters navigable from the sea by vessels of ten or more tons burthen. In the progress of the cause, it appeared, that the seizure was in fact made on land; which fact was suggested to the Court by the claimant's proctor, who moved, that the cause should be tried by a jury. The Court, accordingly, directed a jury, which was sworn, and found a verdict for the United States. On this verdict, a sentence of condemnation was pronounced by the Court; and the cause was brought to this Court by qppeal on the part of the claimant. March 1st.

Mr. D. B. Ogden, for the appellant, argued, that the decree must be reversed, on account of the multiplied irregularities in the proceedings. It was, in the words of the Judiciary Act of 1789, c. 20. s. 9. 'a civil cause of Admiralty and maritime jurisdiction,' according to the allegation of the libel, which stated the seizure to be on water. But it afterwards assumed the shape of an Exchequer cause, and the trial was by jury, upon which the Court rendered, not a judgment, but a sentence of condemnation. The District Court is both a Court of Admiralty, and a Court of common law. In the former branch of its jurisdiction, it proceeds as an Instance Court, by a libel in rem, which is to be tried by the Court: [a] in the latter, it proceeds, in revenue causes, by an information in rem, which is to be tried by the jury. The two jurisdictions, and the proceedings under each, are to be kept entirely distinct. One consequence of blending them together is apparent. Where the seizure is on water, the claimant has a right to further proof in this Court, under certain circumstances; which he will be entirely deprived of, if the proceedings are to be according to the course of the common law, as the facts could not be reviewed by writ of error.

The Attorney General, contra, insisted, that a libel and an information were convertible terms. This was a libel of information, on which, as the seizure was on land, the party had a right to a trial by jury. that right was secured by the constitution, in all cases at common law, where the value in controversy exceeds twenty dollars; and in such cases, the facts tried by a jury cannot be re-examined, otherwise than according to the course of the common law. [b] Here an attempt is made to re-examine them by an appeal, and the cause may be dismissed from this Court on that ground. Supposing the proceeding, however, to have been according to the course of the civil law, there is nothing to prevent the Instance Court of Admiralty from trying facts by a jury, in the same manner as the Court of Chancery directs an issue. The judices selecti, of ancient Rome, were a sort of jury, who acted under the superintendance of the praetor, as his assessors in the determination of questions of fact. March 4th.

Mr. Chief Justice MARSHALL delivered the opinion of the Court, and, after stating the case, proceeded as follows:


^a  The Vengeance, 3 Dall. Rep. 297. The Sally of Norfolk, 2 Cranch's Rep. 406. The Betsey, 4 Cranch's Rep. 443. Whelan v. United States, 7 Cranch's Rep. 112. The Samuel, 1 Wheat. Rep. 9.

^b  Amendments, art. 7.

This work is in the public domain in the United States because it is a work of the United States federal government (see 17 U.S.C. 105).